Some time ago I presented a talk on ten questions and answers regarding the gift of tongues. Subsequently, then, it was suggested to me that I do something similar for the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 12-14. So this is my attempt to do that with this talk on “Ten Questions on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
1. WHAT ARE THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT?
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are usually divided into two distinct groups: a) The Isaian gifts, sometimes called the sanctifying gifts, found in Isaiah 11 (wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord); and b) the charismatic gifts, found in 1Cor. 12-14; Rom. 12:3-13; Eph. 4: 11-16; 1 Peter 4:7-11. A total of 27charismatic gifts have been counted in the New Testament.
2. DOES EVERYONE RECEIVE ALL THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT?
The Isaian gifts are traditionally associated with the Sacrament of Confirmation (CCC 1303). Many Catholics, myself included, recall having to memorize the Isaian gifts as part of preparation to receive Confirmation. The charismatic gifts are available, at least potentially, to everyone and St. Paul exhorts us to earnestly desire them (1 Cor. 14:1). In practical experience, however, no one exercises all the charismatic gifts. Usually, a person exercises a limited number of charismatic gifts with some frequency and effectiveness.
3. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE CHARISMATIC GIFTS?
In 1 Cor. 12:7, it says: “To each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” So the charismatic gifts are meant for service to others, to build up the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:7 says: “Each of us has received God’s favor in the measure in which Christ bestows it.” One of the benefits of Christ ascending on high is that “he gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). The purpose of the foundational gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is listed as roles of service for the faithful to build up the Body of Christ till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature” (Eph. 4:11-13).
4. WHAT SHOULD BE OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD THE CHARISMATIC GIFTS?
First of all, we should have an attitude of openness to receive charismatic gifts and we should pray in faith for them, as Scripture encourages us to do: Gal. 3:5; 1 Cor. 12:31; 14:39.
Secondly, the charismatic gifts should be used in an orderly way, in submission to legitimate spiritual authority (cf. 1 Cor. 14:26, 33).
Thirdly, the gifts should be used in submission to the discernment of the Christian community and its leaders (cf. 1 Cor. 14:37-40).
5. HOW ARE THE CORINTHIAN GIFTS DIVIDED?
Several authors have suggested divisions that they think fit best; however, the particular division of gifts that seems most accurate to me is as follows:
a) The first category is referred to as the gifts that work through the mind or understanding: word of wisdom and word of knowledge;
b) The second category is referred to as the “sign” gifts: faith, gifts of healing, and miracles;
c) The third category is referred to as revelational gifts: prophecy, discernment of spirits, and tongues with interpretation.
d) A fourth category all its own is the use of tongues as a prayer gift.
6. WHAT ARE THE GIFTS OF WORD OF WISDOM AND WORD OF KNOWLEDGE?
We will treat these separately.
First, the WORD OF WISDOM…
a) The word of wisdom is a word of practical advice on how to best live the Christian life. It lets us know what to do or how to act in a given situation. It is an insight into God’s will in a concrete circumstance.
b) Obviously, this gift is very helpful for those with responsibility for leading or guiding others. This gift is extremely useful in counseling situations, when individuals are facing times of decision, trial, crisis, or opportunity. Parents with their children, leaders of any group, priests in confession, counselors – all would have great need of this gift of the Holy Spirit.
c) Examples from Scripture: 1 Kings 3:16-28, King Solomon and the two women fighting over one live baby. Mark 10:20, Jesus’ advice to the rich young man to sell all his possessions and follow Jesus. Luke 20, Several questions regarding John the Baptist, the paying of taxes to Caesar, the woman with seven husbands, Jesus’ question as to how the Son of David can be David’s Lord. Acts 15, Peter’s address to the Council of Jerusalem stating that the Gentiles should not have to obey the Mosaic Law.
Next, the WORD OF KNOWLEDGE…
a) My understanding of the word of knowledge is that it is an inspired understanding of Christian truths and an inspired ability to communicate these truths. It is a gift of presenting doctrinal teaching about the mystery of God in Christ in an inspired and life-giving way. This gift is able to make deep changes in people, helping them grow in their Christian life. It is used in inspired preaching and teaching. Anyone who is responsible for communicating the word of God or Christian teaching would certainly need this gift. We are encouraged to pray for it in Ephesians 6:19-20.
b) There is some confusion surrounding this gift because some take it to refer to knowledge or information that a person did not know previously. However, this is probably not what St. Paul meant by the word of knowledge. That kind of revelational gift is more like prophecy or discernment. Studies I have read indicate that the New Testament would not have used the word knowledge (gnosis in Greek) to describe this phenomenon.
c) Examples in the New Testament: Luke 10:22, the relationship of Jesus with His Father. Ephesians 1, the mystery of God’s plan of salvation.
7. WHAT ARE THE “SIGN GIFTS”?
a) The sign gifts are just that – special signs of God’s presence and action in our midst. They are the gift of faith, gifts of healing, and the gift of miracles.
b) The gift of faith is a special assurance in prayer. Persons with this gift have a supernatural assurance that what they are praying for will be granted by the Lord.
c) We note that gifts of healing is in the plural. There are different types of healing: spiritual healing (conversion or a healing in one’s relationship with the Lord); psychological or emotional healing (frequently involving the removal of “blocks” to a person’s mental or emotional well-being); physical healing (many of Jesus’ healings in the gospels were physical healings).
d) A miracle is defined as a suspension of the ordinary laws of nature. There are numerous such miracles in the gospels, such as Jesus changing water into wine, walking on water, and multiplying the loaves and fishes. We read of miracles that the Apostles worked in the Acts and of miracles of saints in Church History. In our own day, there are accounts in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal documented in books such as “Miracles in El Paso”, about the ministry of Fr. Rick Thomas, SJ; also “Miracles Do Happen” by Sr. Briege McKenna, OSC and the books of Fr. Emiliano Tardif.
8. WHAT IS THE GIFT OF PROPHECY?
a) Prophecy refers to words spoken as inspired or led by God. It is a way that God communicates with people.
b) Prophecy always needs testing. It is not infallible; in this respect it is different from Scripture, which we know is God’s word and eternally true. Prophecy is mixed; a message inspired by God is communicated through weak human instruments.
c) Scripture exhorts us to “test everything” (cf. 1 Cor. 14:3, 29; 1 Thess. 5:19, 21).
d) There are specific norms for judging prophecy which are helps to discern if it is an authentic word or not.
9. WHAT IS THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS?
This is the gift of being able to tell if the particular spirit operating in a given person or situation is the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, or the evil spirit. This gift is extremely important because Satan is the “father of lies” (John 8: ) and counterfeit “signs and wonders” (Matt. 24:24). This gift may build upon, but goes beyond, what we may know from natural, rational sources or from using ordinary Christian wisdom and prudence. This is a much-needed gift today in the face of so much confusion and deception in the spiritual realm.
10. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT USES OF THE GIFT OF TONGUES?
a) Tongues can be a prayer gift for an individual (1 Cor. 14:2,4) and in this case no interpretation is required.
b) Sometimes God uses the gift of tongues to bring a message into a group, and in this case it must be followed by an interpretation so that all can benefit from what is said. Here it functions like a prophetic utterance and must be discerned according to the appropriate norms for judging prophecy.
We should desire and pray for the spiritual gifts so that we can be used to spread the gospel more effectively and help others in their Christian walk. However, we need to remember that the spiritual gifts are never substitutes for the virtues and fruit of the Spirit. It is not a case of choosing either the gifts or the fruit, but rather choosing to have both gifts and fruit…all come through the grace and working of the same Holy Spirit.
©Al Mansfield, 2015